Feb 16, 2024 - Sports

5 players to watch at Chicago Cubs spring training

Photo of a man behind a microphone listening to questions

Manager Craig Counsell of the Chicago Cubs. Photo: Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs are hoping that a new manager can get them over the hump and into the playoffs.

The big picture: After fading last September and missing the postseason, the Cubs switched skippers, bringing in Milwaukee's Craig Counsell to replace David Ross.

  • Star players Seiya Suzuki, Dansby Swanson and Justin Steele return, but Marcus Stroman, Jeimer Candelario and Cody Bellinger are gone.

Yes, but: Bellinger is still in the mix to return.

There are plenty of new players trying to make the roster, so here are 5 to keep an eye on in Mesa, Arizona.

Michael Busch

Third baseman/First baseman

Photo of a baseball player swinging
Michael Busch of the Los Angeles Dodgers bats against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on April 27, 2023. Photo: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Michael Busch came over in a trade this offseason with the Dodgers and is considered one of the top 100 prospects in baseball.

  • He was the Pacific Coast League MVP last season. He hit 27 home runs in just 98 games.

Right now, analysts have Busch penciled in as the starting first baseman for the Cubs, which is intriguing since Busch has played most of his major league games at third.

Projection: Starting first baseman on Opening Day.

Alexander Canario

Outfielder

Photo of a baseball player being doused with water
Alexander Canario is doused with water by Christopher Morel after the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field on September 19, 2023. Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Canario missed a lot of time in 2023 with an injury, but was called up to the big league club down the stretch and had a memorable grand slam.

  • He's a 23-year-old center fielder and part of the team's backup plan if they don't re-sign Bellinger. Canario also will have some competition from fellow prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong.

Projection: Starts season in minors.

Cade Horton

Starting pitcher

Photo of a baseball pitcher
Cade Horton of the Oklahoma Soooners pitches during Men's College World Series game on June 26, 2022 in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo: Eric Francis/Getty Images

Horton is one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. He was drafted by the Cubs in the first round in 2022 after having a standout collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma.

  • Last year, he posted a 2.65 ERA in the minor leagues. He also throws a fastball that hits the high 90s.

Unfortunately for Horton fans, the Cubs rotation is stacked so we may not see the young fireballer for another year.

Projection: Starts season in minors.

Carl Edwards Jr.

Relief pitcher

Photo of a baseball player waiving a flag in celebration
Carl Edwards Jr. of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after Game Seven of the 2016 World Series. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Guess who's back? Carl Edwards Jr. is a familiar face for Cubs fans. He gobbled up innings during the 2016 World Series run.

  • Since then, he hasn't lived up to expectations with stints in San Diego, Seattle, Toronto, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Yes, but: Experience is important for late games and Edwards Jr.. has plenty.

Projection: Opens season in bullpen.

David Bote

Utility infielder

Photo of a baseball player ripping off his jersey
Jason Heyward of the Chicago Cubs (L) and Kyle Schwarber #12 help to rip off the jersey of David Bote #13 after his walk-off grand slam against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field on August 12, 2018. Photo: Jon Durr/Getty Images

Once a full-time starter with the club, David Bote spent most of last season toiling away in the minors. Bote's path back to the big leagues has been stunted by the emergence of Nico Hoerner at second base.

Yes, but: Bote played well in the minors and the Cubs haven't locked down who will play third base since Jeimer Candelario left for Cincinnati.

Projection: Starts season in minors, but could be called up fast if Patrick Wisdom starts slow.

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